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What is an FBO?

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As the international aviation industry, along with business and corporate aviation, has grown, the term FBO (Fixed-Based Operator) has become much more common. That's why we've broken down everything you need to know about FBO airports and the services they provide to passengers, aircraft and crew.

What is an FBO?

An FBO airport will have a private jet terminal, where private jet customers will arrive instead of using the main airport facilities. It is often a purpose-built facility separate from the main airport buildings, offering a range of services for customers, aircraft and crew. Sometimes it may be an entire airport dedicated to business aviation, such as Farnborough in London, or a small lounge within the airport terminal. 

FBOs often lease land at an airport and cater for a range of aircraft needs. These may include the sale of aviation fuel, pilot training, aircraft rental and sales, storage in tie-downs or hangars, sale of aircraft parts, and aerial advertising. They can also offer air taxis - short flights on demand - as well as aircraft repair and maintenance. This is in addition to the provision of crew and passenger services.  

FBO facilities and services

All FBO airports offer basic amenities, such as a comfortable seating area to wait for other group members and to meet their pilots, as well as free Wi-Fi and free toilets. This provides the perfect place for travellers to stop for a refreshment break before boarding their aircraft. FBO facilities vary widely, with some of the larger destinations offering private meeting rooms, showers, movie theatres, duty-free shops and concierge services. Complimentary drinks and snacks are also often available. Some may have restaurants or cafeterias, although this depends on the destination.  

There are some 4,500 FBO airports worldwide. Some smaller airports may have only one FBO, but many have two or more, allowing you to choose which one to use, and many passengers have a preference based on the services provided. A few decades ago, there were many small, independent FBOs, but recently there has been a significant shift towards consolidation with big names such as Signature Flight Support in over 200 destinations worldwide.

The history of fixed-based operators

The term FBO comes from the post-World War I era, when US civil aviation was largely unregulated and consisted of transit pilots flying surplus military aircraft from one city to another. They often offered aeroplane rides and flight demonstrations, which meant that mechanics and flight instructors often moved around with their planes without having an established business in one place. 

When the 1926 Air Commerce Act came into force, which regulated trading standards, pilots were required to have a licence and proof of aircraft maintenance. Those pilots and mechanics who had been living on the road began to establish permanent businesses. This occurred at an increasing number of airports across the United States, bringing with it the term fixed-based operator. 

In short, FBO airports are an increasingly important part of the aviation industry, valuable not only to the aircraft themselves, but to all the crew and passengers who embark on their journeys. They provide everything the private jet industry needs to fly their clients around the world. 

From Europair we are at your service to bring you closer to the world of private aviation, we will advise you throughout the process, answer all your questions, and find the best type of aircraft according to your needs.

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